The chapel where Fr. José Xifré was ordained priest in 1840

Nov 8, 2021 | Founders, Historical Notes

Until recently there was an inherited tradition about the priestly ordination of Fr. José Xifré in Rome, that is to say about the exact place where this important event in his life took place. Traditionally it was supposed to have been celebrated in the private chapel of the Vicariate of St. John Lateran, which was the usual place for such ordinations. However, in the first of the three volumes of the life of Xifré by Fr. Jaume Sidera, the historical truth clearly appears: the ordination took place in the Chapel of the Nobles, located in the then General Curia of the Jesuits, next to the Gesù, where St. Ignatius lived his last 14 years[1].

This chapel belongs to the Marian Congregation of the Assumption, born in 1593. It was a work promoted by the Jesuits. From the beginning of its activities, the headquarters of the congregation was a small chapel adjacent to the church of the Gesù, incorporated into the Jesuits’ Professed House. In addition to devotional and worship practices, the congregants had to assume a commitment to social assistance. Because of its numerous charitable and devotional activities, the Marian Congregation of the Assumption attracted from its foundation the members of the most important families of the historical nobility (Aldobrandini, Altieri, Altemps, Barberini, Boncompagni, Borghese, Chigi, Colonna, del Drago, Doria-Pamphilj, Gonzaga, Massimo, Odescalchi, Orsini, Rospigliosi, Ruspoli, Sacchetti, Serlupi) and so it is commonly known as the Congregation of the Nobles. The historical list of the congregation includes members of royal houses, ecclesiastics, diplomats, scientists, artists, among them 9 saints, blessed and servants of God, 18 supreme pontiffs, 300 cardinals, Grand Masters of the Order of Malta.

Since the fact of Xifré’s ordination in this chapel is not known, it is natural that until now no Claretian would have been interested in visiting it. It is, moreover, a private space not guarded directly by the Jesuits, but by the Congregation of the Assumption.

Xifré’s ordination in Rome and, in particular, in that chapel, an unusual event. The reason for the choice of Rome for his ordination is a relatively well-known fact. Because of the political situation in Spain, many seminarians could not be ordained in their own dioceses, since the Spanish bishops were forbidden to confer holy orders, and so, once they had finished their studies, many ordinands crossed the frontier and sought bishops in the south of France or in Rome. Those who arrived in Rome usually stayed at the convent of St. Basil, a favourite place especially for Catalans. And that is where Xifré, who was 22 years old at the time, stayed. Claret, 32 years old, was also in San Basilio since October 1839, that is to say a few days before the arrival of Xifré, but he would be there for a short time.

Antonio Piatti, Patriarch of Antioch, Vicar of Rome, in the chapel of the Congregation of the Nobles, in the house of the professed of the Society of Jesus, next to the church of the Gesù, as we have said. Claret could not attend the ordination of Xifré since that February he was still in the novitiate of the Jesuits, which he would leave shortly after, on February 29, 1840, to return to Spain. The one who almost certainly attended the ordination of Xifré in the chapel of the Nobles was Domingo Fábregas, 22 years old, who had also arrived in Rome at the beginning of 1840 with the intention of being ordained and, like Claret and Xifré, was also staying in the convent of St. Basil. His ordination would be on April 18, 1840, that is, two months after Xifré, and also from the hands of the same Bishop Antonio Piatti, but in the chapel of the Roman seminary. Claret and Xifré were absent from this celebration since both had already left Rome to return to Spain.

But do we know why Xifré was ordained in the chapel of Nobles? Honestly, we have to confess that we do not know. Nevertheless, this fact has nourished the interest of some Claretians to know in person a place that, although ignored until now, preserves historical and charismatic roots for our Congregation. Thanks to the good work of Antonio Lama S.I., a Jesuit compatriot of Deacon Edgar Salgado, cmf, currently studying in Rome, last November 5, the day in which we remember the deceased Claretians, relatives and benefactors, a small group of Claretians was able to visit the chapel of the Nobles, surely for the first time after so many years. The photos belong to this visit, completed with the visit to the private rooms of St. Ignatius.

[1] According to Sidera we know this information thanks to the diligence of Fr. John Postius who copied it from the Vatican Archives: Ad Presbyteratum Eps. Antonius Piatti, Patriarch Antioche. Vicesgerens. Lucus. In profesae domus S.J. sacello Cong. Nobilium. Tempus. 16 Feb. 1840. See Jaume Sidera, “El P. Josep Xifré” Vol. I, pg. 63.


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